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Movie Friday: Seinfeld

I spent a lot of time talking about the ways in which inequalities – particularly those that fall along racial lines – manifest themselves. I made a point of highlighting those cases where it was clear that the root of the problem was systemic rather than personal; that is, where racism could not be chalked up to personal malice but rather to ordinary cognitive blindness.

However, my thesis has always been that systemic racism and personal racism are simply two sides of the same coin – that the real root of racism is the practice of ascribing group characteristics to individuals, wherein an entire person can be reduced to her/his race. To try and illustrate this point, I am posting this video today:

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xq821
Danny on seinfeld

(Cannot get embed code to work – Dailymotion is a horseshit server, and I apologize. The clip is worth clicking through to see though, I promise.)

So it is up to you, dear reader, to decide what kind of racism is evinced by the cast of Seinfeld – is this personal animus on the part of Jerry and Larry, or is it simply a brain fart? When a minority character can only be exploited for stereotype laughs (of several recurring supporting characters, I can’t think of a single one on the show that wasn’t white – Edit: Jackie the lawyer), is that a reflection of a hidden agenda of personalized racism, or is it just ‘one of those things’?

I put it to you that this seeming contradiction is nothing more than a borderline case between two definitions of racism that are actually two aspects of the same underlying issue, and someone trying to succeed in the industry has to either play into a self-parody token role that undermines their own credibility, or they don’t get paid.

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Comments

  1. Jesse says

    Babu Bhatt, Yev Kassem (soup Nazi), Ping the delivery boy. All three of those had a degree of cheap stereotypical humour, to varying levels.

  2. says

    Babu was part of a 2-episode story arc, and Yev was a one-off (except for the finale, which I don’t count). “Ping the delivery boy” I will leave on its own, as it’s fairly obviously not a step forward for Asian actors.

    I was thinking of recurring characters that are friends or buddies of the group. Puddy, Bayna, Newman, Kramer’s intern… those types of characters. Nary a darkie among ‘em.

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